Design Fee Rates for Freelance Irrigation Projects

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Design Fee Rates for Freelance Irrigation Projects

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    Erik S

    I am currently corresponding with a possible client to do contract freelance work involving a micro / drip irrigation design for a residential project.  The planting design has already been designed and all that is needed is a drip irrigation system design for the project.  The client has asked me what my going rate would be for the project.

    Since this is my first independent freelance project, I am am uncertain of what a fair market rate would be for the design of this project in the current economy.  Are there any individuals out there with any familiarity with what a fair hourly rate would be for irrigation design today? Also, I am wondering if it would be in both of our best interests to propose a lump sum fee based on the size of the project rather than an hourly rate, as from my past experience I know irrigation design can be quite time-consuming.  I know this was fairly typical of my employers from past contracts regarding planting and irrigation design but I just wanted to get a professional opinion on what would be considered competitive before I make any proposals to this client. Thanks!


    I would say that $50/hour is pretty reasonable for entry level consulting. If you fear that you have a learning curve that might gauge the client, then perhaps charge a lump sum fee. Otherwise, I would avoid a lump sum fee, especially if the site plan might change.

    Bob Luther

    $35-50/HR would be a good range to target.

    Adam Trujillo

    Well, I was going to do a small consulting side job (planting and irrigation design) and when I emailed the client and told them my rate was $50 an hour they never contacted me again…. haha. Maybe they just felt like it was so small they could design it themselves with some help from or something?

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Define what youwill do in a proposal and put a flat price on it. It takes away doubt over how long it will take and absorbs any learning curve or lack of speed from being new at it (should you be overcoming that) . It is always easier to sell a flat price than an open ended running meter.


    It is all relative to the type of projects and the client you are proposing a fee to. Be sure to research the client and their previous work first. If it’s just someone’s backyard, then a $50/hr fee would probably scare the ordinary residential customer off.

    Rob Halpern

    I agree.
    The site is designed already, so you can put a lump sum fee on it, specifying that the fee is based on the plans as of such-and-such date. Changes will be charged at $ x/hour. Hourly rates on their own can scare off the inexperienced. Like getting in a taxi with a $50/minute meter. The mind takes you to awful possibilities.

    Besides, you don’t need a client focusing on “He gets paid HOW much per hour? Who the heck does he think he is?” Rather, they should see a price for the job and decide if it is reasonable for the job.

    I expect that your competition is the irrigation contractor who will do the design work “for free” as part of the total installation contract.

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